Families who lie about going on holiday to destinations such as Portugal face up to 10 years in prison – longer than the maximum sentence for sex offences with children or violent firearms crimes.
On Tuesday, Matt Hancock announced that anyone seeking to conceal their trip to a “red list” country – from which arrivals have to spend ten days in a quarantine hotel – would face a £10,000 fine or prosecution and a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
Two former Conservative attorney generals were among those questioning the wisdom of picking a maximum prison sentence of 10 years for holidaymakers.
Dominic Grieve said: “The maximum sentence of 10 years for what is effectively a regulatory breach sounds in the circumstances, unless it can be justified, extraordinarily high”, and Sir Geoffrey Cox said: “I get that the Secretary of State wants to show that this is serious, but you do have to have regard to the overall balance of sentencing policy and law.”
The move was also criticised by Steve Baker, the deputy chairman of the Tory backbench Covid Recovery Group, who backed Lord Sumption’s comments and added: “We are suppressing this virus at all costs and I really would implore ministers to take stock. At some point we are going to have to see reason and let temperance reassert itself.”